While we prize the prosperity that has accompanied our information-driven economy, a serious threat to our prosperity has surfaced. We risk widespread electricity shortages due to the Biden Administration’s nonsensical plan to force the shutdown of coal plants before replacement power is available.
If you’re not worried about the possibility of cascading blackouts from the loss of power, you should be. The impact on our society from system-wide power shortages would be profound.
This new crisis underscores a serious issue: Today’s economy depends on the availability of electricity, but it is precisely because of this dependency that we cannot afford to risk the economic consequences of abandoning coal. We would pay a huge price for such shortsightedness in terms of electricity shortages, closed industries, and lost jobs.
Most people assume that if you build a wind or solar farm you can connect to the grid right away. However, there are insufficient transmission lines to support the transition from fossil fuels, so facilities must pay hefty application fees and wait in the “interconnection queue.” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently reported there are 2,020 gigawatts of capacity in the interconnection queue lines around the country.
The Federal Energy Reliability Commission is the government entity responsible for maintaining electricity reliability. Recently FERC commissioners addressed the energy problem at a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
What was striking about the testimony from the FERC commissioners — two Republicans and two Democrats — is that every commissioner said the country is barreling toward electricity shortages. This was echoed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) — a nonprofit that monitors the grid and makes recommendations to boost reliability. They predict that California and large portions of the Midwest and South are at a high risk of electricity shortfalls between 2023 and 2027.
“The United States is heading for a very catastrophic situation regarding reliability,” FERC commissioner Mark Christie asserted. The main problem, he said, is that power plants are being retired at a faster pace than they are being replaced.
FERC Acting Chairman Willie Phillips, who was appointed by President Biden, said he was “extremely” concerned about the power plant retirements. “We face unprecedented challenges to the reliability of our nation’s electric system,” he said.
For example, the PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest grid operator, which serves 65 million customers, said in a report that about 40 gigawatts, or 21% of its installed capacity, is at risk of retiring by 2030 but that it expects only 30 gigawatts to come online by then.
“The arithmetic doesn’t work,” Commissioner Christie said. “The problem is coming. It’s coming quickly. The red lights are flashing.”
What seems most ominous is the spread of a bad idea: the view that coal doesn’t matter anymore. Those who disparage the use of coal ignore that it accounts for 20% of the electricity capacity nationally and considerably more than that in many states.
Together with nuclear power, coal plants serve us well, providing affordable and reliable baseload power that sustains our economy. Without coal, we would not have enough electricity for our homes and businesses. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency has issued new regulations to force the shutdown of coal plants and substitute intermittent wind and solar power.
Missing from EPA’s plan is any awareness of the enormous quantities of electricity Americans require, especially during cold months.
Last winter, coal provided 47% of the increased power supply when the nation’s grid needed it most. Let’s be realistic: we cannot afford to risk the economic consequences of restricting coal use. Coal is vital to our energy security. Millions of people around the country would freeze in the dark during the winter if not for coal generation.
Yes, climate change is a serious problem, but it’s going to require some innovative technologies to help control such as smaller and cheaper batteries than those now available, which would make it easier and less costly to transmit solar and wind on the grid from rural areas to cities.
But modernizing the nation’s transmission system won’t happen overnight. Nor will the dream of an emission-free energy system. Reliable power from coal plants will be needed well into the future.
See the article here.
- On June 12, 2023